Russell Martin

Russell Martin playing shortstop for the Blue Jays yesterday afternoon in Philadelphia.

With respect to Russell Martin’s playing time with the Blue Jays, it doesn’t matter that he’s Canadian.  Nor does it matter that he’s a 4-time all-star and gold glove winner.  All that matters these days in the competitive world of big league baseball is how much you’re contributing now.  And if you aren’t doing your part to help your team win ball games, you might just be the next Pablo Sandoval, Phil Hughes, or Hanley Ramirez.  That is to say, a veteran player to be released despite still having millions of dollars left on their contract.

Much like what the Red Sox had with Ramirez and Sandoval, and the Twins with Hughes, the Blue Jays have a few bad contracts of their own with underperforming veterans.  Could one of Russell Martin, Kendrys Morales, or Troy Tulowitzki ever be released prior to the conclusion of their contract with Toronto?

When a player is struggling and begins to see their playing time cut-down, they start to propose alternative options in an attempt to try and do more for their team.  Sometimes these proposals are a complete joke, such as Morales offering his services to pitch ever since he forgot how to hit.  While other times they make a whole lot of sense like Martin spending more time playing infield.

It’s all about adapting.  Veterans like Morales and Martin see what happened to Hanley Ramirez, and think to themselves if this could happen to someone playing far better than they are, what does the future hold for them.  The big difference between Martin and Morales when it comes to the idea of adapting their skill set to improve upon what they do for Toronto is that Martin’s skills are far more diversified on account of his athleticism and history of playing the infield.  Unlike Morales who is pretty much a DH that can also play a mediocre 1st base, Martin can play 2nd, 3rd, and as we saw yesterday in Philadelphia, even a little SS when needed.

Martin knows that his days as a starting catcher are numbered.  Especially with Luke Maile and Danny Jansen doing as well as they’ve been.  If Martin were to keep pushing to play catcher, he understands all too well the chances of him playing for the Blue Jays until the conclusion of his contract would be slim to none.

Even at the age of 35, Martin is a special athlete.  He could have easily played either 2nd or 3rd base for the majority of his career and performed every bit as well defensively (if not better) as he did playing catcher.  Before even contemplating the idea of releasing him, the Blue Jays need to try him out as an infielder for an extended period of time and see just how much more he’d be able to contribute offensively when playing a position far less taxing on both his body and mind.

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